Emma Booth is a golf professional who runs her own academy. She is also a mother of two. In her latest blog, she describes the difficulties of juggling it all and where golf fits into it all
Let’s start with a confession, I was actually meant to have this piece about being a golfing mum ready for Mother’s Day. I got a call from the editor a few days before asking if I could send it over by lunchtime, there was a short silence after which I replied: ‘That depends what time do you eat lunch…”
We decided to leave it for another time as we both agreed you are not limited to only writing about being a working, golfing mum on Mother’s Day, being a mum is a 24/7, 365 days a year gig.
However, there was also another reason as to why I have struggled to sit down and write this article – I’m not sure I actually have that much to write about, as I hardly seem to play golf these days!
I’m a mother of two girls: Darcy, three, and one-year-old Primrose.
In 2015, I brought my first child into the world and this was the same year in which my husband, Gary, also a golf professional, and I opened Winchester Golf Academy.
The Academy is a 28-bay, purpose-built practice facility with a franchised bistro. Designing and building the venue was a massive project that involved a lot of hard work to get going.
So, as you can imagine, it came as a bit of a surprise to discover I was pregnant at this momentous time.
Starting out, the team was small with just four people covering the long hours. Fast forward to the present day and we now have a team of 14 people including six golf coaches and another baby girl at home.
Life is busy, hectic and very full-on.
Like most working parents with small children, Gary and I often feel like passing ships in the night as we hand over the girls to swap over at work or meet by the cot at 3am to give some much needed Calpol to a teething baby.
Our situation is slightly unique in the sense that we raise our girls, work, and manage a facility together.
We mix with the same customers and users of the Academy, which has provided me with an insight into how some of the older generation still think of traditional parenting roles and gender stereotypes.
In fact, it has actually made me question the quality of the car park surface, as some of the men must have real difficulty parking their penny-farthings.
Here are a few of my observations:
1. I’ve lost count of the amount of times people have asked me if Gary is “at home babysitting” while I’m at work. “Yes,” I say through greeted teeth, Gary is at home babysitting his own children. Sigh.
2. Gary wins Dad of the Year in many people’s eyes day after day by simply looking after the girls on his own. I am not celebrated with quite so much enthusiasm.
3. My body is a spectator sport. When pregnant it was all about how big I was, if I had a neat bump, if I was keeping the weight off and on and on. A man who had an impressive beer belly once asked me how I managed to swing with my bump in the way. He somehow failed to see the irony with his question.
The frequency of body comments only intensified after I had given birth – full looks up and down and questioning whether I’d lost the baby weight. (It’s worth noting that women over a certain age were just as guilty of these comments as men.) There still seems to be the pressure to show no physical evidence that you’ve grown and birthed a human.
Getting back in shape should be your number one priority. Don’t believe me? just look at some of the comments under the video of Prince Harry and Meghan introducing baby Archie to the world, the general gist being ‘Why does she still look pregnant?’ Barely 48 hours after giving birth.
With regards to getting time to play golf, it’s sadly fallen by the wayside since the Academy opened and the girls came along. I’m a strong believer in finding time for what you prioritise and truthfully playing golf regularly has not been a priority.
I’ve always tried hard to keep a sense of self since having the girls but being a mother is often all-consuming and it’s hard not to succumb to the nagging doubts and feelings of guilt over every single decision you are faced with, from breastfeeding or bottle, when to go back to work, childcare, the development and well-being of your children – the list goes on and on.
Going back to work is a big one as it’s seen as a choice that I made. Gary would never have the weight of something like that put on him. There really was no choice involved in it for me, or our family. I had to go back to work to pay the mortgage. With all the nagging feelings and doubts I already try to bat away about being a good enough mum, the last thing that crosses my mind currently is taking four or five hours out at the weekend to go and play a round of golf.
I think this is just the reality of being a parent of small children. Gary isn’t getting in too much golf either. With each passing month things are getting easier and the sleep deprivation has somewhat subsided. I also don’t want to miss or wish away the girls being this age as it really is a delight seeing them grow and discover the world.
What I can say though is that when I have managed to get out to play it has been an absolute joy. Don’t get me wrong, my golf is now nowhere near as good as it used to be and why should it be?
But my appreciation for the game has changed. I enjoy the time to get back to something I forgot I could do. Growing up competing I very much attached my identity and worth to my ability to play golf to a high standard. I now feel free from that pressure. I feel free to enjoy golf as an escape and time for myself.
I try to practice what I preach in my coaching and manage my expectations about how well I should be able to play so I embrace the bad shots as an opportunity to improve and enjoy the ones the ones that make me feel 18 again.
In a few short years Gary and I will hopefully be able to share our love of the game with the girls and it will become something we can all do together. Now what could be finer than that?